“It is not a sense of pride in what I did but the fact I was part of a process which developed a symbol which is recognised everywhere,” he said.
“It is the face of the Uniting Church and shows no sign of being diminished.”
Two years before the Uniting Church came into being, the quaintly named Working Group on Paraphernalia and Titles was tasked with designing a logo and motto for the new denomination.
Mr Gibson had the job of finalising the design after key elements were suggested by West Australian Bob Evans (the cross over the broken circle, or wide ‘U’) and Queenslander Don Hutton (the dove with wings of flame).
The dove wings symbolise the flame of the Holy Spirit descending on new Christians at Pentecost.
Those suggestions were among many made by church people after initial work with a graphic design firm did not produce an acceptable result.
“We really did not care for any of the firm’s ideas so we decided we should give the whole Church the opportunity to make submissions,” Mr Gibson said.
Mr Gibson, a retired Brisbane architect and long-time member of the Indooroopilly Uniting Church, said the challenge had been to produce a logo that was practical, modern and made a bold statement.
“Generally, if a committee is asked to design a horse it will end up with a camel. But that did not happen in this case,” Mr Gibson said.
“If I had set out to design the symbol by myself I would not have arrived at that design.
“So I cannot claim ownership of the emblem. I might have created the finished product but the contributors of the committee and church members were vital.”
The logo design was unveiled in November 1976, but the group never settled on a motto, perhaps partly because the emblem speaks for itself.
While the logo, sometimes referred to as the roundel, remains unchanged for the broader Church, variations of the iconic symbol have been employed by agencies and congregations.
For example, the roundel’s dove forms part of the UCAF logo.
Both Share and Uniting AgeWell have developed a brand that only uses the ‘watermark’ dove, instead of the full Uniting Church roundel.
Some churches have created their own logos. Banyule Network of Uniting Churches uses an artistic cross as part of its name, and Mernda Uniting Church has created a cartoon version with people working, walking and playing on the design.
In 2009, an editor’s note in Crosslight was highly critical of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations with the Uniting Church in Australia’s (ACC) logo, which also adopts the dove set within a cross but heading in the opposite direction to the traditional roundel.
Rev Dr Max Champion, ACC national chair at the time, wrote a letter disputing the accusation that this represented the movement “flying away” from the church.
“The ACC symbol has the dove and the flame together (as in the UCA symbol but not in the ‘watermark dove’) leading the Church and the confessing movement forward from the Cross and the open Scripture,” Dr Champion wrote.
More recently there has been controversy around branding for Uniting, the new community service arm of the Church which from 3 July this year will drop the name UnitingCare.
There is no visible sign of the Uniting Church logo in the Uniting branding as used in NSW, and there were complaints that it showed no Christian identification at all.
That the absence or alleged misuse of the logo can create such controversy speaks to the power of the enduring ‘brand’.
Mr Gibson said he was surprised that the original design had remained for four decades but believed that it had strong graphic design principles and was easy to reproduce had greatly assisted.
“We had no great expectations of its longevity – we thought it might last a few years,” he said.
“I am quite amazed it has been kept like it has been for 40 years when there have been so many changes in the life of the Church.
“That has been quite remarkable.”
Perhaps a Catholic nun summed it up best when she told working group convenor Rev Frank Whyte: “I envy your church this emblem. It says everything!”
Visual Identity Guidelines (“livery”) exist for the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
They can be found at https://www.victas.uca.org.au/newsmedia/Documents/Livery.pdf
If you wish to use the Uniting Church logo, please read the official guidelines which can be found at the above address. Should you have any queries, please contact Garth Jones (Design & Creative Services) on (03) 9251 5273 or